Sunday, August 24, 2008

The day after the Madrid plane crash, I referred to the 'ghoulish Spanish obsession with blood and gore". In his post of today, Ben over at Notes from Spain majors on what's called morbo here, for which the dictionary definition is 'morbid curiosity'. As Ben describes it, this is wider than just an interest in pictures of blood and splattered brains and extends to an avid desire for sensationalist insights into the reaction of everyone involved, especially the victims. Well, those that aren't actually dead; the latter are only required to give a picture. Perhaps because it's August and there's little else to report on but the Olympics, things appear to have been worse than ever with this tragedy. Graeme at South of Watford has also blogged on it. For me, the most fascinating point made by Ben is that it might be a recent phenomenon, attributable to a particular TV program. But the most surprising aspect is that this deterioration in human behaviour can't be laid at the door of Rupert Murdoch and his tabloid empire. Imagine what will happen when he eventually moves into the Spanish-speaking world.

El Mundo today prints a survey on the popularity of the five Spanish presidents since the end of the Franco era. Not surprisingly, the greatest affection is held for the man [Sr Suarez] who presided over the transition to democracy, and the least for the man [Sr Zapatero] who is presiding over the current recession. Sr Z, in fact, comes last in each of the various voting categories. Except for one. He's felt to be at number 3 when it comes to getting along with the king. Some consolation. But at least it's more than Gordon Brown will ever be able to lay claim to, mutatis mutandis.

The local Formula 1 fans down in Valencia must have been terribly disappointed to see Fernando Alonso shunted out of the race on lap 1, even if he had almost nil chance of winning it. So it was nice to see them getting some consolation by whistling and jeering at Lewis Hamilton as he mounted the podium. I'm sure there was no intention whatsoever to upset him, so it was all perfectly tickety-boo. Just a bit of fun. Sportsmanlike, even.

I'm not sure I believe this but it's reported in the British press today that officials were advising anyone planning to go to Heathrow airport this afternoon to greet the UK athletes’ on their return from China to stay away for “health and safety reasons”. If so, it's easy to see why I regularly say that life in Britain in now insane.

Another example of an interesting search that brought someone to my blog - are subsaharans homogeneous? I'm not sure I've ever addressed this.

What I'd like to see or hear in Spain. No. 1
No, sir, I'm sorry we don't have that item in stock. [As opposed to just 'No!']

What I'd like to see or hear in Spain. No. 2
No, sir, I'm sorry we don't have that item in stock. But we can order it for you, if you like. [As opposed . . .]


To be a self-respecting town in Galicia these days, you must have a medieval fair in your fiesta calendar. Inevitably, quite an industry has grown up around this phenomenon. Pontevedra's version is now 8 or 9 years old and will take place in early September. Click here to see photos of previous years' events. And here, if that isn't enough for you.

It's reported that the good folk of neighbouring Asturias are increasingly turning their backs on grey and white granite and painting their houses in all sorts of bright colours. Rather as they do down in North Portugal. Let's hope that Galicia responds to this squeeze by copying the trend. For it's not for nothing that the Spanish regard Galician granitic styles as the least appealing - if I can put it that way - of all the varied architectural genres of this nation of nations. Not that there aren't some exceptionally beautiful examples.

This weekend saw the first nights of the transfer of Pontevedra's botellón from the streets of the old quarter to a site across the river, away from everyone. It appears to have been a 100% success in clearing the streets and allowing the residents to get to sleep but only about a 10% success in getting the kids to cross the bridge. So, where were they this weekend? And - Who cares?


David Jackson said...

"morbo" is a difficult one. For example, our maths teacher in Bachiller was not pretty, but extruded "sex appeal" to the sweating 17 years old. "No es guapa, pero tiene morbo" was the comment.
Rather then "morbid curiosity" the correct translation might be "'unusual' excitement[of the senses]".

Colin said...

Afraid Collins got there before you . .

"She's not pretty but she's sexy".

Anonymous said...

Well, I thought the media coverage would not be a surprising fact. At least not quite different to our neighbour countries, including UK with the tabloids you mention here.

The idea I had is that blood, stunning footage (or morbo) both sells and annoys everywhere in a similar way. Maybe our countries are closer than you expected, or at least we share the hypocrisy you reserve for Brits :-D

I suppose that anyone can watch worse images from the Irak war in an ordinary bulletin or newspaper. At least from the other side.

In my circle of friends, I presume everybody is disappointed with that coverage; specially with the vulture-like journalists pushing mics against the shocked relatives.

If you already know Digg, probably you are also familiar with menéame. The story covering what I am telling here, climbed to the third most popular of this week's ranking and approx. the ninth of the entire month.

If you look one of the darkest humour blogs, hold by a tv screenwriter:
you can read the same opinions.

Probably the lack of standards you find there is as sad as this hypocrisy, but at least it is far from being widely accepted.

Tom Watkinson said...

Colin, is blood and gore really a specifically Spanish obsession? Surely it's more a media obsession in whichever country the catastrophe happens to occur? I've been struck above all by the calm and pragmatism shown by ordinary people in the aftermath of the accident. It seems to me most people simply want one thing: Spannair to come clean on why they let the plane take off in the first place. I know it's maybe stating the obvious, but most of the hysteria has been media-generated. Would it really be any different in Britain? Probably even worse.

Have a look at my recent blog on '' where I give my own reactions as a foreigner living in Spain to the disaster.

Colin said...


Many thanks for your comments. Yes, the UK tabloids are appalling, as I have frequently said.

Graeme at South of Watford has drawn the [valid] distincition between war non-war grisly pictures.

I take you point that many Spaniards are disgusted, as I have seen in letters to the papers.

Colin said...


1. I don't know if it is a specifically [exclusive?] Spanish obsession but I suspect not. I can only compare it with the cultures in which I've lived. And I rather tend to agree with a view I saw somewhere else that one doesn't tend to see dead bodies on Anglo TV but one sees one a day in the Spanish media. Though I don't watch much Spanish TV at all. The worst cases, as I far as I can recall, are people in flames, pix of scattered body parts after a bomb and blood stains/pools or rivulets of blood after a murder.

2. I agree with Graeme that there's a case to be argued for horrific war pictures. I even think we should see Belsen picture once a year, for example.

3. Graeme also makes a good point about censorship in Spain being hard to stomach after 40 years of Franco's regime.

4. Then there's the question of whether it's supply or demand driven. If someone introduced a salacious, intrusive tabloid newspaper into the UK, would sales take off despite they're having been no previous demand. Oh, they have and they did. If someone introduced free porn onto the internet would there be more consumers of porn than ever before? If someone introduced the same onto midnight TV in the UK or Spain, same question. Same answer.

5. The problem we surely have is that prurience and morbid curiosity are latent in us all. Given the chance, we will indulge ourselves. Spain has the pink press but, as yet, no yellow press. But its media does display a willingness to intrude into grief more than in other cultures, I believe.

6. But the real problem is how on earth to stop it in a free society? If people in the media exercise no responsibility to curb supply, consumers are unlikely to curb their latent proclivity to 'enjoy' the results. The UK tries 'voluntary restraint' in some areas but there are differing views about the efficacy of this in a country where there is no law of privacy.

None of us want censorship and we are all afraid [terrified?] of being elitist and/or patronising these days. We mustn't be seen to be telling the lower orders how they should behave.

6. Of course, religion used to manage the trick but that's less and less relevant these days and humanism has yet to supplant it. Anyway, what would it say on this subject of a lack of sensibility/ taste/morality/consideration for the grieving??

As for Spanair, I personally think that a statement that there was a fault that was corrected is all that should be expected right now. It will be shown to be true or not in due course. I've been on many planes that have taken off after such an occurrence. It is not logical to assume that the crash [probably] happened because of the un-addressed original fault. In fact, the opposite is more logical. Natural as the speculation might be, I don't think it helps.

I will now read your blog.


Colin said...


First of all, for others trying it, I should say the link takes you only to your profile. I did find the blog entry by searching for 'truebrit38' in myspace in the drop down search menu.

Secondly, can there be anyone on the web with a higher female/male Friends ratio. Any cast offs?

Thirdly - and rather more seriously - it's a shame you missed the dignified reaction to the Madrid bombings. That really was something.

Tom Watkinson said...

Thanks for taking a look at my blog Colin.

I think we're at one on the point about the Spanish media intruding into private pain more than elsewhere. I also take the point about hostility to censorship following Franco.

One question, in respect to the current situation, is surely this: has the media transformed what is essentially personal grief into something 'bigger', pulling in everyone on a national scale, on a par say with Diana's death in Britain? I'm not convinced it has, or at least the effect has been limited. (I realise that by mentioning the term 'national grief' in my blog, I was probably over-inflating matters too!) People seem to be resisting media over-kill, as suggested by the other poster.

I haven't conducted a body-count of dead people on TV here, so I can't say whether there are more or less shown than in the UK. Possibly yes, but the notion that the Spanish have more of a proclivity towards viewing images of death/injury/mutilation than other nationalities is, I believe, a generalisation. I recall that the use of a bullfighting scene as the opening for Spain's Eurovision entry this year was widely criticised for stereotyping Spanish people as blood and gore fanatics.

I would certainly have valued being able to compare reactions to the Madrid terrorist attacks with those we're discussing now (I assume you're referring to media reactions). I suppose they probably had more gravitas due to the political context of the national elections at that time. There was therefore less scope for the media to treat the suffering of the victims and their families in the sensationalist way that is possible after an accident.

On a lighter note: your comment about my female to male friends ratio on myspace is very flattering, but don't imagine too much! I'm only in regular contact with a handful of them and three are family members (two sisters and a niece!). If you want me to put you in contact with any of them, you'll have to sign up to myspace first, which is rather time-consuming to say the least.

Cheers for now,